Coetzee hits the front

2/9/2014 12:23:00 PM
George Coetzee   (Getty Images)
George Coetzee (Getty Images)
George Coetzee overhauled compatriots Thomas Aiken and Justin Walters to lead the Joburg Open heading into the home stretch.

The 27 year old South African, who has had 24 top-ten finishes on The European Tour without winning, turned in a four under par 33 at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club before holing a six foot birdie effort at the tenth to reach 18 under.

That was one ahead of Aiken and Walters, the two Johannesburg-born players both turning in level par 37s to remain 17 under, with Korea’s Jin Jeong a shot further back in fourth.

Coetzee picked up shots at the first and fourth and found a third birdie of the day when he reached the edge of the sixth green in two and two-putted the par five.

The eighth hole provided a potentially decisive swing as, with Coetzee already having birdied the par five, Walters found trouble with a bunker off the tee and Aiken three-putted to see both run up bogey sixes.

England’s former Walker Cup star Andy Sullivan signed for a seven under par 65 and had to wait to see whether his 15 under clubhouse total would be good enough for a top-three finish and invite to The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in July.

Coetzee did well to save par from rough at the tenth and a bunker at the 11th, and remained one ahead of Walters with four holes left to play.

Aiken had dropped two back after finding a greenside bunker at the 12th, with Alvaro Quiros joining Sullivan in the clubhouse on 15 under.

Aiken’s chances of a third European Tour title faded dramatically when he missed the 13th green and double bogeyed, and Walters three-putted the same hole to leave Coetzee two clear.

He stretched that advantage to three with a 30 foot putt at the 15th having almost found a hazard from the tee.